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    Cultural Appropriation in a “A Short History of Tanning”

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    Cultural appropriation does not bring about cultural respect instead it tarnishes and diminishes original cultural aspects. This is continuously seen amongst popular white celebrities in their social medias, business and everyday life. White people change their natural physical features and style mirroring people of color in hopes of bettering themselves. Features such as skin complexions, lips, butts, hairstyles and fashion trends are being publicly appropriated with no remorse.

    In a “A Short History of Tanning” Wilkinson gives a brief summary of the start of tanning and the reasons behind it. Wilkinson states that over the years tanning as become some sort of trending censation amongst white people. Tanning is a process done to bring color to the skin for a number of reasons, one being to enhance a person appearances. By 2000, a survey showed that 50% of Britons said that returning with a tan was the single most important reason for actually going on holiday. Toffee- colored skin celebrities such as Beyonce, Halle Berry, and Jessica Alba are said to be the definitions of 21st century beauty. With that being said, many white people often fail to realize that these women’s skin tones are the results of being either mixed are non- caucasian. Factual and statistical information can prove that over half of white women want to tan to achieve similar complexions of people of color. This is a clear example as to white people wanting to mimic people of color skin’s complexion in order to enhance their own.

    A humans face is typically the first thing people notice and at the bottom center of it lays their lips. Plump lips have become a popular physical feature wanted by many but this has not always been the case. Historically, common black features such as lager lips have been deemed undesirable or ugly, or treated as fetishized stereotypes. In “The Big Problem With Our Fascination With Kylie Jenner’s Lips…” Clifton talks about the history of having larger lips and its modern day popularity amgost white celeberiterties. For example, Kylie Jenner undoubtedly paid for surgery to enhance her natural lip structure causing challenges such as the “the Kylie Jenner lip challenge” to surface the internet, making plump lips a must have. She even started a cosmetic company profiting off the idea of a lipstick giving the illusion of plumper lips. This is consider exploitation of the black culture. White women are paying top dollars to basically copy features predominant in Africans and African Americans. White women are free to do whatever makeup routine or surgical procedure they feel fits them but when white people are credited for starting trends related to physical attributes long negatively associated with black people it be becomes a form of appropriation.

    During the 1800s Europeans used indigenous African people for various studies and without a doubt, the natural sizes of African women’s backside became a matter of science. Saartjie Baartman, better known as the “Hottentot Venus” was a member of the Khoikhoi tribe of South Africa, but to the Europeans, she was a sideshow attraction. Dragged alongside animals and treated like one; she was constantly beaten and sexually assaulted all because of her natural born features. The white men singled her out and when she died they didn’t even have the decency to provide a proper burial. Instead, they mutilated her body and put her parts on display. Even after her death, the humiliation continued on in France. It wasn’t until after Nelson Mandela became president 200 years after Saartje birth did she get returned to her homeland and buried.

    European doctors described the so-called “ excessive” fat accumulation around the rear end a condition called steatopygia. Apparently having a larger rear end was once a medical condition. Now it is just genetics or silicon. We have all seen how Kim Kardashian’s butt broke the internet as if it was a shocker that a body type like hers was possible to achieve. Now everybody wants to be “slim thick” and are willing to pay for what African women were shamed for. Thousands of people have received butt implants and once again it is a process done to enhance one’s appearance.

    This trend of adopting something from another culture can be seen in fashion as well. It’s one thing to love it but it is another thing to take it. African tribal prints catches the eyes of many designers due to there now trending bright colors and patterns, but when no credit is given to the originally culture, accusations of cultural appropriations are brought into discussion. Stella McCartney is a designer who recently caught some heat because of her fashion show she did including Ankara print, and one African American model. Many people were offended by the show, Literandra says, ‘We all know African prints are awesome & beautiful, appreciate them, but don’t make it look like you just discovered them.'(Author, Page Number). Numerous occasions have occured where the original styles of African and African Americans have been taken and tarnished. For example, cornrows have been around for many years, dating all the way back to ancient Caribbean, African and Egyptian history, but yet they only recently became popular amongst white celebrities who change the name of the pattern.

    Such as Kim Kardashian, she called a traditional braiding pattern “Bo Derek”, giving credit to a white woman for a black style. Instead of educating herself on black hairstyles, she posted them on social media and began to receive backlash from other people of color because they too are tired of her wrongful crediting white women for African American culture on her social media platform. This demonstrates how white women with a platform could easily appropriate culture and simply post it for the world to see. This shows how badly white women want to look of African descent by changing their hairstyles. For the record, Kardashian hairstyle mirrors Fulani braids, a style that can be traced back to the Fulani ethnic group in West Africa. Women of color have been mortified for these exact braids and also called ghetto. While on the other hand white women have been praised and called “ bold and stunning.” African American women are put down for their own culture and are shown little to no recognition when they are simple trying to embrace it.

    It would be beautifly if cultures could come together and show one another respect, but that has yet to be the case. Many cultures appreciate the fact that attention has been brought to African and African American cultures as it should and would like to point out its importance. It is important that people of color know their own history and not the history the public education system teaches them. The African culture that is filled with beauty and tradition needs to be preserved for future generations. The more cultural appropriation is present; the more the culture will be ruined. So respect should be shown to every culture and given its proper credit or risk it being diminished little by little. Maybe one day society can move towards accepting all cultures as they are and embrace them equally, instead of only accepting them under certain circumstances.

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    Cultural Appropriation in a “A Short History of Tanning”. (2021, Jul 27). Retrieved from

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